Library proud to be ‘making a space for the music’

Written by Marlee Gallagher

Earlier this month, we witnessed something special in our studio.

Lights low and surrounded by a captive audience, author and musician Colter Harper stood next to a projection of iconic Teenie Harris images and shared a passage from his new book, “Jazz in the Hill,” which digs deep into the collective memory of place. Or, rather, places.

In the book, Harper explores the social histories of several jazz clubs that existed more than 50 years ago in the Hill District. Though the physical places are gone, the community and culture and music still live on.

During the question-and-answer session, an audience member asked Harper where we can go today to hear great, local jazz. Harper listed a few notable spots in and around Pittsburgh. Then he looked around the room, arms open, and said, “and right here.”

That was the perfect introduction to the second half of the evening: a concert with Harper and his band, vocalist Treasure Treasure, drummer James Johnson III and bassist Denzel Chismar-Oliver.

Seated and at eye-level with the audience, the band led us on a musical journey at once heart-wrenching and uplifting with a set list that was recognizable yet unexpected, in the best way. When Treasure spoke the first few words of “Lilac Wine,” a song that has been beautifully covered by so many jazz greats, and is coincidentally inspired by a book, the room felt full as if everyone had taken a collective breath. And rightfully so, as this version was breathtaking.

Many attendees stuck around after the show to talk to the band members and ask Harper to sign their copies of his book. In mine he wrote, “Thanks for making a space for the music.”

The past six months as the new executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall has already felt incredibly fulfilling. Creating space for musicians, writers, historians and artists of all kinds is what the Carnegie Carnegie has been doing for more than a hundred years. I’m grateful to be able to carry on this tradition as a current caretaker of this incredible place.

Just as Harper describes in his book, our space, our patrons, our musicians, our staff and volunteers are the “foundations of community building.” And what an incredible community we have built!

I hope you’ll join us for more music and magic this summer — Jazz in the Hill with Harper and his band kicked off something new we’re trying with our Studio Summer Jazz Series, which continues through August.

Heidi Beatty alongside bassist Leon Boykins, guitarist Mark Strickland and drummer Roger Humphries will close out the series for June. In July, Mark Strickland returns with the Jessica Lee Quartet, including pianist Rick Gallagher and percussionist Hugo Cruz for “The Wisdom of the Blues,” an exploration of life’s highs and lows as told through the blues, jazz and R&B. Later in the month, guitarist Ken Karsh, bassist Kurt Lorence and drummer Subha Das take the stage with their special blend of jazz standards and fusion. Our neighbor, trombonist Reggie Watkins, stops by in August with his original soulful sound, and RML Jazz will close out the summer season.

Get all the details and your tickets at While you’re there, be sure to check out all the other good stuff we’ve got coming up through the rest of this year. I hope to see you here soon!

Marlee Gallagher is executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall.

Published on June 27 , 2024 by TribLive.